It's been three years since Li'l Cap'n Travis' Glurp Records debut, …In All Their Splendor and, from the look of things, it was time well spent. Shimmering with sighs of pedal steel, twangy classic rock licks, and breathy harmonies, their brand-new record, Twilight on Sometimes Island, shows a band firmly in love with the past but by no means looking to repeat it. All the old ghosts are there-a little Beach Boys production, some reverb-drenched '50s rock 'n' roll, and a general sense of good timeyness that feels like the best summer day of your life.
"It flashes on some heavy timely matters-teenage despair, Eskimo children, vampirism, and island-prison escapes to name a few," says guitarist/singer Matt Kinsey about Twilight. "We took our time and pursued some of our more ridiculous notions and enjoyed doing it. It's got tons of pedal steel guitar on it for not really having country-fied songs."
Li'l Cap'n Travis (named after the son of a local redneck who rented out party barges) comes out of the hyper-creative Austin music scene, and has shown up on the cover of the Austin Chronicle and at the Austin City Limits Festival, along with bringing in big-time crowds at their hometown's annual SXSW festival.
Says Kinsey, "The Austin scene has been good to us and we get to play with great bands all the time. Michael Crow from one of our favorite bands, Grand Champeen, worked on the new record as did Frenchie Smith (Sixteen Deluxe, Young Heart Attack)."
Still, they've spread the Li'l Cap'n love far beyond the golden gates of Austin, and this, their fourth record, looks to be the band's biggest statement yet. Twilight is a photobook of stories, but not in some weepy, self-conscious emo way. Instead you're reminded of all those best-day-evers, rad sunsets and ridiculous sunburns, good times and hard drinking. But if it's nostalgic, it's only so in the lyrics. Part and parcel, this is modern pop, conscious of rock history but gunning towards the now.
Li'l Cap'n Travis, which has shared the stage with everyone from Willie Nelson to Jonathan Richman, shows their best hand on songs like "Cherry Chapstick," a mellow, lazy days inner-tube ride down the rivers of awesome summers past. "Sugar Buzz" is half Wilco, half Tom Petty, with hand-claps and sassy lyrics and a good sense of humor above all. "Violeta, Diamond of the Everglades" is beachy pop with brassy Calexico-ian horns. "Regatta" is a gorgeous, hilarious, stoner pop song that's equally Flaming Lips as it is cocaine cowboy-era Eagles. The pedal steel? Pure soaring bliss. Just drips off like melting raindrops.
It's a sound that has done well for the band, recently landing them gallons of new fans and a spot on NBC's Friday Night Lights. But, if anything, Twilight will just kick all this into overdrive.
All told, Kinsey sums the record up saying, "We didn't have a master plan but we wanted everybody to sing and contribute songs and use some of the unpredictable elements of the studio to make exciting sounds on tunes that are dear to us. In so doing, if we happened to have altered the very makeup of the core of human existence and soothed the consciousness of divine beings as foretold in the texts of the ancient ones, then so be it."